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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Institutional responses to allegations of child sexual abuse involving the late Lord Janner of Braunstone QC Investigation Report

D.3: Nominations for peerages

6. Lord Janner was nominated for a peerage by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair MP. Mr Blair told us that, given that Lord Janner’s nomination was 23 years ago, and occurred within approximately two months of Labour forming the new government that year, he could “unfortunately recall nothing of the specific events” relating to the nominations of Lord Janner and the other 31 individuals he nominated on that occasion.[1]

7. At the time of Lord Janner’s peerage, nominations were scrutinised by the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee (PHSC). The PHSC’s role was to advise the Prime Minister whether the nominee was a ‘fit and proper person to be so recommended’. In advising the Prime Minister, the PHSC was free to make such enquiries as it saw fit, which would typically include making a criminal records check and checking the nominee’s “standing with the tax authorities as well as one’s reputation in their field of operational work”.[2] The PHSC’s advice was not binding, and we heard that it was not always accepted.[3] In Lord Janner’s case, checks were undertaken with the Home Office, the Department for Education, the Lord Chancellor’s Department, the Security Service and the tax authorities.[4] From the records now available, it is not possible to ascertain if checks were made with any other government department or outside agency, but there is no evidence that efforts were made to contact Leicestershire Police or the Crown Prosecution Service. Mr Blair stated that the documentation showed that “Lord Janner and almost all of the other nominees [received] the PHSC’s positive certification”.[5]

8. In 2000, the procedure for nominating an individual as a life peer changed with the establishment of the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC). Ms Helen Ewen, Director of Honours and Information within the Cabinet Office, told us that HOLAC is independent of the government and its role includes vetting those nominees to the House of Lords who are party political nominees.[6] We heard evidence that, under the current system for peerages (and honours), the integrity of the system had to be upheld and so successful nominations would not be made if that nomination could bring the system into jeopardy or disrepute.[7]

9. Ms Ewen told us that, today, serious allegations of sexual assault made against a nominee would be “absolutely front and centre” in any report to the Prime Minister. The benefit of the doubt would now be given to the accuser. She stated that unless the allegation had been “resolved or tested in a meaningful way”, HOLAC would give strong advice not to continue with the nomination. The bar would be set high, but potential unfairness could be offset by the fact that there would be an opportunity for the nomination to be revived at a later date when more facts may have emerged. She pointed out that peerages or honours were “gifts to be given”, and that the recipients were not entitled to them. She also agreed that the approach was intended to preserve the integrity of the system.

10. Ms Ewen said that an “allegation of child abuse would prevent an individual’s name going forward until there was clarity on the substance of the matter”. She added that the greater independence and public understanding of HOLAC (and the current Honours Committees) allowed for more scrutiny. She felt that “a very different set of judgements and approaches … applied today”, when compared to previous periods.

11. We concluded that it would not be right for there to be an absolute prohibition on nominating anyone who has faced allegations of child sexual abuse for a peerage. However, where such allegations have been made, they must be the subject of scrutiny by the person (or persons) responsible for proposing the nomination, those responsible for considering the suitability of the nominee and those responsible for making the ultimate recommendation that the peerage be conferred.

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